Sunday, June 23, 2013

Peas, Reborn

Pea plants die off quickly in summer's heat.  Then it's time to rip them out an plant something else in their place.  This year, due to lack of sunny garden space, I had to get creative with my plant placements.  I couldn't wait until mid-June to replant this part of the garden, so in May I planted tomato seedlings in between the rows of peas.  That mostly worked, though I noticed this week that the tomatoes planted in the pea patch are about 6 inches shorter than the tomatoes planted in a clear area of the garden. 

Because the pea patch was already replanted early, I wasn't in a hurry to rip out the dry, brown pea vines.

When I finally went to clear out the old plants, I found that many had new pea sprouts growing from the base.  Some "reborn" plants were quite full looking, with several flowers and developing pods:

I decided to cut off the old stalks and see what happens.  Maybe I'll get a few more peas to nibble on, or maybe this experiment will go the way of the zucchini from two years ago.  I'll let you know.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Would You Eat It?

Back in mid-May, I found this growing in my garden:

I hadn't planted it, at least not this year.  I did put in some "mixed greens" seeds in that general area - about two years ago.  The plant was right where I planned to put a tomato, so I just put the tomato next to it and hoped they wouldn't interfere too much while I figured out if the mystery plant was friend or foe.

Then I posted the photo to FaceThing and asked friends:  should I eat it?

Responses varied. Here's a sample:

* It looks like a red mustard green. I have some Asian ones. If you grew a salad greens or stirfry mix, it might be from that. Or perilla--there's a red type.
* The question is.....will it eat you?  (my favorite response)
* No. But I wouldn't eat it if was served to me at a 4-star restaurant.
* Looks like something my horse would not eat; if they don't eat it, I don't.  (ok, this was the same commenter as above, but I thought it deserved its own entry)
* I'd eat it. It might be hallucinogenic lettuce.
* Yes!!!
* Why take a chance?
* Let another set of leaves grow. Sometimes you get surprised and then other times just another weed. Just make sure it's not jimsonweed, an entire family had hallucinations a few years back when they tossed it in some soup.

Note the range from "Yes!"  to an emphatic "No."  Note also two references to hallucinogens.  Who are these friends of mine?  By the way, the conversation devolved from here into me offering to dig up jimsonweed (which I can ID, and this is not it) from my parents' yard to give to the guy who suggested hallucinogenic lettuce.

I'm not a particularly adventurous eater, so I knew before I asked the question that I wasn't going to try it.  But I also knew my more culinarily adventurous dad would be coming to visit in a few weeks, and he'd probably be willing to take a nibble.   So I let it stay. And grow.

Dad arrived, nibbled, and declared:  mustard.  So my first respondent was correct.  Congratulations, cousin Sue!  We had some in our salad that same night.

A little mustard goes a long way.  Can't say I've harvested any since - it's not really my favorite green, though it does bring back some good childhood garden memories.

Now it is bolting:

It is also as tall as the tomato and shading my little basils.  Off to the compost pile!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Harvesting Dessert

My homegrown dessert this evening:

(First plum and blackberries of the year)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 2013 Blooms: Lilies

Whether they be Lilium or Hemerocallis, the lilies bloom in June.

 First, the Asiatic lilies, growing under the honeylocusts in the side yard.

They grow up as the daffodil foliage is dying down.

 The "Easter" lilies grow by the garage door:
Over in the upper garden, common ditch and Stella D'Oro daylilies fill in under the plum tree:

The side yard has the showier daylilies, including these red ones.
All the lilies (day- and otherwise) shown above came with the property.  I've since added others, but they are not among the early bloomers.
Because I can't let Bloom Day pass showing off only one or two flower types, and because I've committed to showing more than just close-up photos, here are two broader shots.  First, the front walk, with Rudbeckia, Tennessee coneflower, and lavender:

Now, in the upper garden, my very favorite combination - Asclepias tuberosa (orange butterfly weed), Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink), and Thermopsis caroliniana (Carolina bushpea):

Disclaimer: this was two weeks ago.  A. and S. are still in full bloom now, but T. is done.

Every once in a great while a plan that forms in my head becomes reality.  This vignette makes me smile just as much as I'd hoped it would.

What's blooming in your yard today?

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Berry For Me

I've had a few blueberry bushes for a few years, but I've never eaten a blueberry that I've grown.  Partly because they've not been very fruitful; partly because of my three highbush shrubs, one died (from lack of attention) and one doesn't care to flower, leaving the third with nothing to cross-pollinate it; and partly because it's not worth protecting the few fruits I'd otherwise have from the critters (birds and squirrels).

Oh, 'Sunshine Blue', why won't you make flowers and berries for me?
This year I bought a shrub to replace the dead one.  It has so far survived, and seemed to do its cross-pollinating job.  I know one is supposed to not let them fruit for the first year or so, but that seems silly to me.  There are finally actual blueberries growing - why would I prevent that?  So each of my two plants that flowered decided to grow some fruit this year.  I've been watching and waiting. Finally, last Saturday, I saw it:  a blue berry.  That's right folks, a ripe blueberry!  I was so thrilled I ripped it right off the shrub and had it halfway to my mouth.  Then I stopped myself, set the berry down, and went in search of the camera to record this auspicious occasion:

My First Blueberry
Yes, it was tasty.  I wanted more.  Oh, so many more.  Well, there aren't that many more to be had, but I want them all, yes I do.  So I pulled the bird/squirrel netting off the strawberries (their spring flush is done now) and wrapped up the blueberries, tying the netting around the bottom of the stalks to try to keep the crafty squirrels out and using all my twist-ties on the sides and top to keep the birds out.  I only knocked 3-4 developing berries off in the process.  I mourned the loss of each one.

Older shrub on the left, new one on the right, 'Sunshine' in front of the netting, and helianthus all around
 Wednesday I went out to check on things, and found this:

Three more blue berries (one's hiding)!

They were yummy, too.

While I was critter-proofing last weekend, I also (with Dad's help) netted the blackberries:

A row of bricks on the bottom (it worked for the strawberries, so trying it again here),  The sides and top are stapled to the fence.  So I'm going to have to harvest from the bottom.

I'll eat you soon, my pretties

It will be worth it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hilling Up

This is my first year growing potatoes - a real impulse experiment.  When I was at the garden center buying bulbs and seeds in early spring, I snagged a seed potato at the checkout counter.

I asked Potato Queen for planting advice (who better, right?).  She recommended slicing up the potato a few days before planting and letting it cure for a few days.  She also said she's too impatient to do that, and her potatoes come out fine.  So, with good intentions of doing the right thing ... I didn't.  My potato had about a day to sit, cut up, before I had to plant the pieces.

Five tater pieces, two eyes per, went in the ground between the lettuce seeds and the onion sets (also something new this year), near the parsley.  If potatoes, onions, and parsley are good together on a plate, they must be good together in the ground, right?  And the lettuce was there, too, because it was the only bit of garden I'd gotten prepped, pea patch excluded.

I waited.  Taters sprouted - hooray!  Then they grew - hooray!  Then it was May and they were getting tall. 

I'd heard of something called "hilling up" that I'd have to do.  When I saw my brother-in-law-from-a-root-crop-farming-family mid-May, I asked when the hilling needed to start.  "Oh, when they're about ten inches tall or so."  Oops.  Mine were already at a foot.  Time to get hilling.

One thing I hadn't considered about this hilling thing:  I would need dirt.  OK, I knew I would need it, I just hadn't planned where to get it.  Or quite how much I would need.

I started digging around my ugly compost bins.  They are in an area that used to be veggie garden until it got too shady, so I figured there would still be some good dirt around.  There was, but not nearly enough.  So I turned to the pretty compost bins, full of lovely black gold.  Would straight compost be too much tor the taters?  Well, I was out of dirt for blending, so on it went, straight from the bin.

Look at those hills!  The next question was:  how far to bury them?  Semi-expert opinion said leave about six inches showing.  OK, more compost.  Just one problem:  the plant farthest in the back is taller than the others.  I made his hill slightly taller, but couldn't go high enough without all the dirt sliding down onto the neighboring onions.

I did the best I could, but it seems potatoes need a lot more horizontal space than I'd planned.  I tried transplanting the lettuce that had been growing to the left of the potatoes, but none of it survived. The parsley (last year's, and starting to flower) also had to go.

Turns out the plants loved the compost, and grew like mad.  Now whether they're producing any spuds underneath, I have no idea.  But by the first of June they needed hilling again.  More compost.  I emptied one bin and started scraping up spillage from the patio.  Oh, and did I mention it was 95 degrees on the first day of June?  I hope these taters appreciate the labor of love.

I scrounged some patio pavers and a cement block and built a wall between the potatoes and the onions.  It was the only way I could get the hills high enough.  The plant in back is still the tallest by far.

Now I wait.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Monty Rebuttal

Several garden bloggers I follow periodically show off the whole of their gardens, the big picture (Garden on Sherlock Street's monthly tours being the most regular).  I always enjoy these posts, but don't seem to do it myself. Most of my photos are close-ups, partly because there are specific plants I want to show off, but mostly because the wide-angle may not be pretty.  It is much easier to pull a few weeds from around a subject plant or plant-group than to clean out an entire garden bed. 

Today, Tammy at Casa Mariposa posted her annual "Full Monty", showing off her whole yard.  Tammy's gardens are lovely and even her Full-Monty posts are picture-perfect, making me think she must be still hiding something.  This year she flaunted in video form: proof that we really are seeing the whole thing.

Part of this post is responding to an implied (but probably unintended) challenge ("I'll show you mine if you show me yours"); part is a "rebuttal" of the perfect gardens.  Here's the down and dirty most gardeners don't want you to ever see.

My space is a two-tenths-of-an-acre corner lot in a semi-suburban neighborhood within the city limits.  Much of the area is taken up by building footprints:  my 1950s ranch-style house with a 1980s rear addition and a detached garage.  The remainder is mostly front lawn.  The actual gardening takes place mostly in the side yards and the little bit of terraced rear yard remaining, but that's plenty.

(please pardon me as I cope with an awkward late-afternoon sun-angle in many of the photos that follow)

Let's start in the front.  Here's the view from the corner:

I'm not big on lawn care, preferring to spend my limited yard time on the more vertical plantings.  Hence you see a spotty front lawn with bare patches, clover, and other assorted weeds.  At least the spring dandelion bloom has passed.  You can see some of the terracing that turns what would be a sloping yard into a series of relatively flat spaces.

My most recent garden addition is the parking strip, which is filling in nicely with moss phlox and creeping thyme.  A redbud anchors the far end.

But if I'm showing everything, I have to also show off the parking strip around the corner:

I haven't tackled this one yet, so it is clover and assorted other weeds covering a bricked over strip.

Back to the front, here's the yard as seen from the other end:

That's a big maple on the left that loses giant limbs in every storm.  The unidentified rose bush is in full flower, and I've no comments about the rest of the foundation bed on this side.

Behind the maple is the side garden, which nearly always has something to look at.

Plans grow and reseed so well that the path tends to disappear, as you can see here.  Not the worst problem to have, I will admit.  This end is a butterfly bush and daylilies on the left, rose campion (obstructing the path), blueberries, and iris on the right.

Here's the same garden viewed from the other side:

In the middle, rosemary and lambs ear encroach the walkway.  Last year's flower stalks are still on the tall sedum on the left.  More iris, lamb's ear, and geranium are also on the left.  The right is where many of the daffodils make their spring show.  Also Echinacea (a big reseeder!), lilies, more sedums, some small shrubs, and three honeylocust trees.  Lots of other things in there, too.

The above photo was taken from the driveway.  Let me back up to show that driveway (which opens up to an alley):

I like to show off the driveway bed on the far right in this photo, filled with blackberries.  What I don't normally show off is a cracked driveway full of weeds, some leaf mulch that hasn't been put in the gardens yet, a big brush pile on the right (I could use my garden-time bundling up branches for haul-away, or I could do some much more urgent task ...), a new brush pile on the left (today's pile, all the limbs cut to the required four-foot size, because today's the day I'm actually going to clean up the mess I make.  Yeah, right.)  Oh, and behind that new pile (in front of the grill) is a dead rhododendron, still in its nursery pot.

To my right when I took the photo above is the garage, and this:

One of two piles of bricks that I pulled up when I make the parking strip bed (the other is on the other side of the garage).  I've been meaning to freecycle these for two year now ..... (anyone in NoVa need bricks?)

On the other side of the garage entry door are the deck and the garage garden:

Perennial herbs (thyme, oregano, sage, tarragon) in the near end, near the door to the house, perennials in the rest of it.  It is nice and full, probably too full.

On the other end of the garage is the patio:

Not just any patio, but a home for the rain barrel, compost bins, lots of weeds and volunteer plants.  The terrace wall in the foreground is collapsing.  About half the penstemon blooming in the background and the butterfly weed in flower are actually growing up through the patio stones.  And if I'm really going to show off everything, behind the glider are:

... more bricks!  These are ones I've collected from throughout the yard, and use here and there for various purposes.  Yes, that's a volunteer tomato plant growing in the patio in front of the compost bin.  It's doing better than any tomato I've started from seed this year, so for now it stays there.  I've cleaned out one bin segment and started on the second:  eventually I'll move the bin to another location and reclaim some of the patio.

One of the gardens at Casa Mariposa has been dubbed "the yuck side", but I think it is as beautiful as anywhere else in the yard.  For a true Yuck Side, take a peek behind my garage:

Two and a half feet wide, full of old fencing, weeds, pieces that have fallen from my neighbor's porch roof (you can see the roof gutters above the fence), and whatever else blows in here.  Yuck.

Past the patio is the terrace garden:

Four bed surrounding a central square.  The center is the plum tree underplanted with daylilies.  The near bed is the edibles garden.  Strawberries on the right (with some of the random bricks used to hold down the squirrel netting), lowbush blueberries, peas, a metal arch for climbing food (beans and cucumbers), onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc.  Potatoes are just out of view to the left.

The left garden is perennials, mostly natives.  From here you can see butterfly weed just about to bloom.

Here's the terrace garden as seen from the side yard:

Front left is the little pond.  Then steps that are covered with clover.  Front right is the Neglected Bed, also with a crumbling terrace wall.  To the right are the ugly compost piles, held up with chicken wire fencing.  Eventually my good bins will go here. 

In this side yard, out of view to the right, are two birch trees with lovely exfoliating bark.  I haven't figured out how to plant anything under them due to their shallow roots and water-sucking nature.  Out of view to the left is a kousa dogwood, currently in full flower.  I couldn't put it in the photo because that's right where the sun was.

I'll end with a view of the side foundation bed:

The tree is actually two growing together:  black cherry and crepe myrtle.  Somehow they cohabitate nicely. This area is home to hellebores, hosta, a big aucuba shrub (behind the tree), and whatever else I plop here.

And that's the tour, the "real" full monty.